King Kekaulike stays unbeaten, widens lead

PUKALANI – In a match that could mean a lot at the end of the season – between the Maui Interscholastic League’s last two champions – it was the King Kekaulike High School boys soccer team that stood on top at the end Friday night.

Na Alii got a goal that Baldwin disputed for a 1-0 victory in front of about 1,000 fans at King Kekaulike Stadium.

King Kekaulike (9-0-3) boosted its lead in the MIL Division I standings to five points over Kamehameha Maui (8-2-1) and six over Baldwin (8-3-0).

Micah Tateishi scored in the 35th minute, slamming home a loose ball after a scramble in front of the net.

“It was the best feeling in the world,” Tateishi said. “Baldwin is a really good team, but I don’t know, we just pulled it off. That goal felt amazing.”

The Bears controlled the second half, and pressured Na Alii mightily. King Kekaulike fullback Lionel Mills made a crucial clear of the ball in front of the net with Baldwin players surrounding him in the 73rd minute, and Cameron Baker made a save of what could have been an own goal two minutes later. In stoppage time, Baker again came up big on a Baldwin header.

“It was a great game,” said King Kekaulike coach Ryan Arakawa. “Baldwin came out and they came out on fire. We knew they were going to come out strong. We prepared our boys the whole week. We told them, ‘Baldwin is not going to give up, they are not going to just roll over, they are going to bring everything they got.’ They did today.”

Baldwin coach Kane Palazzotto said he heard a referee’s whistle before Tateishi’s goal.

“That goal was a referee error,” Palazzotto said. “It was not in the goal, he blew his whistle before the ball went in the goal, but we still had a lot of time to do what we wanted to do and we just didn’t score a goal.”

Arakawa’s take on the whistle was: “I couldn’t tell. I just saw the play keep going. I didn’t hear any whistle.”

Tateishi said he thought the whistle might have come before he contacted the ball, although he was just concentrating on the ball and the net.

“I heard a whistle, but nothing else was going through my head but that goal,” he said.

Baldwin had a golden opportunity at the equalizer in the 45th minute after a handball was called in the box, setting up a penalty kick. Nick Lawrence, however, sent his rocket shot just over the crossbar.

“I thought the boys played hard, played well,” Palazzotto said. “I thought we dominated the second half. We didn’t give up much in the second half. Obviously missing the PK hurt us.”

King Kekaulike can clinch its second MIL title in three years with wins against Sea-bury Hall on Tuesday and Maui High on Jan. 31 – both on the road – to finish its regular season.

“We always go for the win, we are going for the six (points),” Arakawa said.

* Robert Collias is at